Socrative is a simple web-based student response system that I’ve tinkered with on several occasions, but its streamlined interface sits atop a deceptively powerful piece of software. The flexibility makes it something I’d recommend to any teacher with at least a handful of web-enabled devices, be those iPads, iPod Touches, laptops, smartphones, or even a computer lab of workstations. Rather than giving an overview of the whole Socrative tool, I’ll outline how I leveraged it to run a successful unit review lesson before the holiday break.
The basic brilliance of Socrative is that rather than organizing information around “users,” it organizes information around “activities.” There are no logins for individual students; there is simply a virtual “room” where the teacher runs an activity and any student can join that room using a unique “room number.” Teacher accounts are currently free and the development team is eager to hear from users and work with them.
Back to the simplicity. During a lesson, setup requires that a student 1) opens any modern web browser on any device, 2) navigates to m.socrative.com, and 3) enters the correct room number for my account:
Unit 3 in my 7th-grade English class is about narratives, and I wanted my review activity to focus on key terms that students had struggled with: the elements of a plot (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution), point of view, and theme (the lesson of the story).
During several previous lessons, students practiced explaining the elements of the plot by charting them through “story maps”—but rather than simply make another story map as a review, I wanted an engaging activity that would help students target their analysis of a new story to the elements they most struggled with. Sure, you understand rising action, but what if you really need to work on identifying the climax? You’ve got setting down, but what about point of view?
So I wrote a lesson plan that went like this:
- as a class, read a short (1 page) story that scholars had not seen before
- demonstrate how to create a “story poster” that captured all these key elements for a story that we had read several times previously
- break scholars into teams to test their knowledge of these key elements with an interactive group quiz; each student responds to questions on their iPad (we have a class set of 30)
- set students to work on their individual posters.
Here’s my exemplar version of the “story poster”—it’s based on the Richard Peck story “Priscilla and the Wimps” and I made it accessible to every student by snapping a pic of it with my iPhone and them dropping that into the day’s pdf presentation:
Socrative was the tool I chose for the third part (group quiz), as the software offers a “Space Race” feature that administers a pre-made quiz to an arbitrary number of students divided into up to 10 teams. Basically, it’s a way of “gamifying” a quiz so that students can race to see who can answer the most questions quickly and correctly.
I wrote the 10-question quiz as plain text and then moved the pieces into the Excel template that Socrative supplies for uploading into their system. Here’s a link to that file so you can see how it works for a basic set of multiple-choice questions.
After students “sign in” to the appropriate virtual room, they select their team from a simple list organized by color (no custom team names at the moment, but I just assigned colors to the tables in my physical room):
They then type in their name (so that the teacher can see how each scholar responds) and move to the first question:
This interface scales itself nicely on any size screen, but is particularly cozy on small displays like phones and tablets.
As each team moves through the questions, the teacher interface displays the progress of each team. I projected this at the front of the room and was astounded at the urgency students in every section displayed: cheering as their ship moved forward, egging teammates to think harder when other groups edged ahead.
When all teams completed the questions, I closed the activity and Socrative automatically emailed me a report of the results.
With correct answers in green and wrong answers in red, I could immediately see which questions were troubling lots of students (e.g. the third question on identifying a story’s climax), and which students need support across the board (e.g. student17). When students moved into creating their story posters, I could direct them to focus on the concepts they missed on the practice quiz.
In the end, I’d do something similar to this again as a review lesson. There was a disconnect for the students between what they missed on the quiz and what I wanted them to practice on their poster, but that’s something I could remedy by tweaking the directions or making the quiz results instantly accessible.
Finally, I have to admit that I put a little extra production time into this lesson experiment because I had two guests observing who were interested in seeing how I incorporate iPads into instruction. Below I include the lesson plan and the presentation I used to guide students through the lesson: